Monday, January 7, 2008

Hollywood Week 6: In Which I Try to Look Busy

July 14, 2005

I returned to VMHQ from a long weekend home, driving from the Burbank airport to the office Monday morning after an ass-crack-of-dawn flight that followed my first all-nighter since studying for my college chemistry final in 1989. I came to work intending to make up for the sleep I didn’t get on the plane by napping on the sofa in the bullpen, but I barely had time to tell everyone how I saw Hilary Swank lounging in purple bra and panties on her friends’ dock at Lake Samish before I was summoned to the Writers Room ALONE by the boss.

Each episode so far has been a collaborative effort—the six of us gather around the table and hammer out the A, B, and C storylines. With a group of funny people generating ideas and discussing rapport-building topics such music and personal hygiene, the Writers Room hums with humor and energy and occasional bolts of genius. But after each episode has been plotted, the individual assigned to write the script peels off to spend time alone composing, leaving fewer and fewer brains at the table.

I’ll be writing episode 5—possibly alone, but probably with Klemmer (“Klemben”). Since everyone else was busily working on their scripts, it was just me and Rob left in the Writers Room to break the story. And Monday morning, after two days testing the limits of my liver, no sleep, and 4 hours on a plane, I was not ready to be brilliant and witty and clever. I came to work still wearing my swimsuit under my clothes, for god’s sake.

The good thing about this job is that wearing a bikini under one’s Howard Dean for America tank top doesn’t really attract attention. Aside from someone telling me that I should’ve worn the shirt more often when Dean was still campaigning, nobody even noticed that I was wearing beachwear and clothing that I’d obviously (not) slept in. This is an office, after all, where the guys rinse off in the Bivouac Buddy, the camouflage-curtained outdoor shower installed in the back parking lot. So there’s a good chance that I could’ve worn just the bikini top and there would’ve been little comment.

Being alone at the table with just Rob and our writers’ assistant has been more than slightly nerve wracking. With the group surrounding me, my lame story pitches just get lost in the cacophony. Now, when I toss out some little turd of an idea, there aren’t six people there to ignore it and quickly move on. Now there are two people, just looking at me like I’ve got an enormous, vacuous gap in my skull where my brain should be. I’ve spent most of the week alternating between thinking I’m a dork and worrying that everyone else thinks I’m a dork. Maybe I should take a clue from George Costanza and just pitch one good idea and then leave the room. Soon, everyone will think I’m brilliant.

For those of you monitoring my descent, you should know that I spent time on Tuesday purchasing a TV and ordering cable. I took some slack around the office because I only bought a 20-inch set, as opposed to some 60 inch behemoth that I could write off on my taxes, but my main concern was simply to own one that I can lift. Please rest assured that if you visit me in Hollywood, we’ll find ways to amuse ourselves besides watching TV, although my co-workers did harass me into ordering the Premium Plus Package with two hundred billion channels and HBO, so there is plenty of crap to choose from should we run out of other entertainment.

It’s funny that one reason I almost chose not to take this job is that I didn’t want to sacrifice my free time. A lifetime of job-free summers (well, there were a few years when I picked strawberries and shelved books) made me hesitant about giving up my three months of freedom. And here it is, mid-July, and I feel like I’ve done less work than I did in the two semesters I spent on my high school yearbook staff, something I never imagined possible. I’m trying to enjoy this space. I can tell, from the writers who are sequestered in their offices, wearing the letters off their keyboards, that my days of napping and 1000-word emails are not for long.

Enjoy, and thank you for joining me in this moment of silence.

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